Disclaimer: Not mine. The end.

A portion of this fic has been on my hard drive for nearly two years. Quick note that this is supposed to feel unresolved. To fit into canon this takes place far before the end of the Doom/Waking the Dragons arc. And the pharaoh takes a lot more steps back before he takes any forward in my opinion. I liked the idea that Honda might have done more than just stand by and watch him stumble through those first few nights.

Comments are always welcome.

Stand Up or Fall Down

By, Nicole Silverwolf

They had eaten, but he couldn't remember what.

Plans were made to get to the train station in the morning, to find a way to Florida. He didn't remember any of the specifics.

Jonouchi was charged with finding the fastest route to the nearest train station, and though most everyone else had been skeptical of giving Katsuya such an important task, he seemed to be doing a remarkable job of coordinating their efforts to get to wherever they were going.

Anzu alternately packed and helped the professor with whatever he asked of her. Trying to keep herself as busy as possible. But her hands were always tense, fisted, and scrubbing her closed eyes though desperate to hide it.

He was appallingly unable to do anything. Frustrated, he had walked out and up to the now ruined Hawking home. It was quiet, in the unsettling way it had been since he had felt hands shove him out of fate that was rightfully his. The Pharaoh wandered aimlessly, peering solemnly at the remnants of Arthur and Rebecca Hawking's life in the dwindling twilight.

A half burnt couch.

Some dinner plates in millions of pieces.

Books, burnt and now waterlogged.

The obvious remains of a bed, probably Rebecca's since it was small. The blankets, though dingy with soot and carbon dust were a light girlish blue.

As much as he wanted to just keep walking, as if that would somehow solve the dilemma, his problem, his guilt...it was quite foolish. He knew better than to wander off without a direction or purpose. Especially in a foreign land.

The spirit dropped the cards granted by the Doom organization first, the seal and the non-functional dragon Timaeus that had been granted to both of them. They were drawn out like some poisonous disease and considered with less importance than dust once they'd been thrown away.

Bright, desperately hopeful eyes gazed to the heavens.

Impassive, expansive starfields lazed across by the thousands. Shooting stars streaked milky white trails that fast faded. It was breathtaking.

Yet the expression of the sky did not change.

Desperate, he reached for the duel disk, unhooking it from his arm and dropping it carelessly to the floor, piling it with the rest of what he'd already offered.

When this failed to move his observer his deck followed; cards he'd—they'd—treasured splashing away from their neatly ordered pile.

Nothing.

Swallowing past the painfully thick lump in his throat, the young man clenched the heavy chain around his neck and in a swift, but clearly troubled motion removed the Sennen Puzzle. The talisman dangled from his hands for an infinite moment, then joined the pile at his feet.

He tried to convince himself he wasn't crying.

"I do not have anything else. Please. I...please let me have him back."

Slumping to his knees he stared at these worthless trinkets, fittingly housed within the ruins of Rebecca and Arthur's life. They meant nothing compared to Yugi's soul.

Nothing.

What was he going to do?


Standing yards away and hidden mostly by Otogi's beat up blue Cadillac, Honda didn't dare to move. Volunteering to sleep under the stars sounded macho but in reality he'd been desperate to escape the oppressive air in the trailer.

He knew he couldn't be the only one feeling useless at this moment. Of course he'd done anything he could, lending his expertise with motorbikes to Otogi as they'd repaired the beat up car that was going to act as his bed.

Truthfully he'd tried to avoid thinking about what the Pharaoh must be going through. It was discomforting to think of the spirit of the puzzle so shaken. He'd never expected the emotions Yugi's other was showing, a despair and doubt that scared Honda. Because if the Pharaoh was this distraught, what was Yugi going through?

And if he was supposed to be older—wiser—what did that say about all of them?

Something moved nearby; wildlife or some shift in the debris from the house that drew the Pharaoh's attention and his as well.

Honda debated on moving but never got far enough to decide if that was going to be to walk towards the Pharaoh or to hide further behind the car. In the moment he'd thought to act he'd been spotted. Over his shoulder, stiffer though not regal as he had the tendency to carry himself, a slanted eye was staring directly at him. Part accusing, part embarrassed and still commanding a respect no one other than Yugi could get out of him.

Ashamed, Honda hesitated again. Honestly he hadn't meant to intrude; no one liked to appear weak he KNEW that. At the very least he should apologize. For all the things he could be accused of in this life, backing down was not one of them. Not when it counted.

The Pharaoh didn't move--still like a statue--waiting for Honda to do something.

The lanky young man slid out from behind the tire and perched on the trunk. Legs dangling inches from the ground and his arms casually slouched between them, Honda appeared as nonchalant as he possibly could while being watched. It was clear from the way he sat at the far end of the car that a second or even a third person could sit next to him. An open invitation without having to be voiced. Eyes turned upwards to view the expanse before him Honda did his best to think of something else.

Did his best to ignore the silence that stretched on when perhaps it shouldn't have.

Ignored the obvious sounds of mucous filled sniffing.

Counted how many constellations he could remember from his childhood, until he felt the metallic squeak and dip of his seat as someone joined him. He tried to remember which stars made up the Pisces constellation and could only pull half of them from the place in his head he kept such useless facts. Gave up after a few minutes and glanced sidelong at the spirit.

Yugi's counterpart had drawn up his knees and wrapped his arms around them, too much like Yugi. Whatever the Pharaoh had come out here to do it had worked!

For an instant he believed it.

Yugi looked like this--not his other.

Except Yugi had never had such sharp features, even when he'd been occasionally annoyed with something or even more rarely someone.

Honda winced.

"Sorry."

Silence met that declaration, more telling than any words could.

"Didn't mean to intrude," he elaborated, gesturing vaguely at the pile of dueling equipment and the Puzzle. Staring at that seemed so much easier than looking at those too bright eyes. Ones he could feel on him and that he didn't have the guts to meet.

Honda rambled onwards, desperate to fill the gap in conversation and worried on some level that the Spirit might want to talk. And that he wouldn't know how to respond.

"It's just I couldn't sit in the trailer anymore; everyone was driving me nuts y'know? I thought I was gonna suffocate, and then I'd volunteered to sleep in the car and I figured why not just come out here now and get to bed early right? Specially since we're gonna be up early to get to that train and..."

Honda paused, mouth half open to glance at his audience. The Spirit was agape, eyes wide and mouth open which looked even odder on him than all the previous expressions before.

"What?" he whined, half wondering if the Pharaoh was mocking him.

The pharaoh cracked an almost smile, not really turning his lips up, but relaxing.

"I didn't think you rambled Honda." The answer was remarkably composed considering how much he was falling apart inside.

"Yeah, well I'll have you know that just because I don't talk incessantly that I don't know what it means to ramble. I'm just as freaked out as everyone else is about this."

The pharaoh seemed to consider this carefully before a minute nod of agreement moved him. They sunk into silence again, less strained but still awkward.

"Feel any better?" Honda ventured. Maybe it was like some sort of purge, getting rid of all that stuff. Nothing but grief had come from that neon green circle card that was for certain.

But dueling was one of the good things, how he'd become friends with Yugi and by extension this spirit despite the fact that he didn't compete. It had saved all of their lives more than once. Something that the both Yugi and the spirit cherished. How could getting rid of their deck and the duel disk be a good thing?

"No," the spirit honestly replied then continued without being prodded. "I believed, that if I gave up everything that I had once thought was important to me, that the Gods might be willing to return Yugi's soul. Foolish to think that even these few trinkets could measure up to him."

Those statements conjured up images of death; final and so very irreversible. Honda jumped to squash those thoughts because Yugi wasn't dead and wasn't going to be dead when they found him.

"Look in the morning it'll get better. We'll find this Dartz dude and get the answers we need and we'll find Yugi and he'll be fine." The emphasis on fine was sharp and accusing.

"What if it doesn't get better? What if this," a gesture at hopelessly encompassing air, "is forever?"

Honda was too nervous to be anything but honest. "No, it can't stay like this...it won't stay like this...because..."

Fidgeting and gaping for words he started flipping a flat stone over and over in his hands.

"Nothing lasts forever. I mean," he went slow, trying to wrap words around such ephemeral concepts. Forcing words out and not sure he believed them, living the experience that might prove them true.

"I mean, eventually we're gonna have to stand up from this seat and we'll decide whether we fall down again or if we keep walking. So this moment isn't forever. You take it one step at a time, least that's what I heard in a movie or read in some book. I guess that's all you can do."

The spirit just hunched further into himself, part stubborn part incredulous. How could a kid like him even understand?

Silence swarmed in again, potent and caustic.

Honda was tired of being upset about this, of wallowing in their own despair and mistakes. There was no way in hell he was skilled enough to take down someone like Raphael but he was sure that the Pharaoh could.

And he'd need his deck to do that.

Possibly the Puzzle as well since he wasn't clear on what its purpose was, only that it was important.

Mind made up because Honda never liked to dwell on a decision once it was made he jumped from the trunk and strode firmly forward. The pharaoh watched him go, eyes quiet and contemplative.

When Honda made his way back several minutes later the spirit wasn't surprised to see the Puzzle cradled in one hand, and Yugi's deck in the other. He thrust them into the pharaoh's lap waiting for the Spirit to take them.

Eventually, thin hands reached up and slid absently over the Puzzle, painfully unsure. His grip didn't tighten on the chain and its weight did not lessen in Honda's grip.

"You shouldn't throw these away. You're gonna need them to save Yugi."

A little of the former bully in him shone through his brown eyes. Uncompromising about what he was proposing the pharaoh do even as he feared what could happen if the spirit disagreed.

Eventually the other Yugi took them but Honda couldn't tell if the look he was shot was guilty, grateful or accusing. He didn't know the spirit well enough to tell the difference.

"C'mon, we should get some sleep," he declared. Honda strode around the big car and launched himself across the backseat. It wasn't going to be a comfortable night, but he was determined to sleep.

The spirit moved eventually; Honda couldn't help but keep an eye on the crest of hair he could see from where he lay. While he hoped it would be to go to sleep he doubted that was what actually happened.

Owari

Sooo...comments, criticisms, flames, praise...anything you'd like to throw at me? Please do so now.

Thanks for reading!